Once again: A primary problem Americans have, whether deciding issues of theology, sociology, politics – whatever, is our propensity to view the world, and all things of/in the world, through the very narrow lens of our American culture. All cultures and nationalities are prone to this mistake, but we are overwhelmed by it. This is not simply an issue of believing we are the best, but about an inability to perceive that we do in fact look through a “colored” lens – many of us cannot even comprehend that there is such a thing as a culturally “colored” lens.
This has a devastating effect on the American Christian Church, and individual Christians in this country.
We must understand that we have to put aside, as best we can, our culture peculiarities in order to get to the heart of what God intends to teach through Scripture. If we do not, we are letting cultural bias interfere with our knowledge of God and God’s ways. If we refuse to even consider our propensity for cultural myopia, we are guilty of cultural pride and arrogance. Maybe some of us do understand and determine that our particular lens is in fact God’s lens!
If we are to know timeless truths, we must comprehend Scriptural teaching from the perspective of the original writers. Only then can we get to the heart of what is required of us and promised to us – rightly dividing the Word.

Loss of Members

Brad Drell (Drell’s Descants) responded to numerous posts on the Episcopal House of Bishops/House of Deputies Listserv concerning the continuing loss of membership in the Episocpal Church with the following timely, true, and hard hitting post. I have his permission to re-post it here:
Church Growth – A Post To The HOBD Listserv

[HoB/D] TEC Continues To Hemorrhage-
I am going to play a little game with all of you here on the HOBD listserv. It is called the truth. I am going to absolutely tell the truth, as I see it in this post – no holding back. It is rather ugly, and I apologize in advance. But, reading this stuff about decline in our church, I’ve basically decided that my church seems to be ignoring some obvious problems.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this whole church growth issue in terms of who is growing and who is not. The Catholic and Mormon churches are really growing. I think it is because they are birthing more members of their churches. Episcopalians I think have plenty of children, although probably less than most. The big difference seems to be that a lot of Episcopalian parents didn’t and don’t MAKE their children come to church. Children shouldn’t have a choice in the matter. I never did. Many of my friends did, however. I’m still in the church; they aren’t. Not a big surprise. Since we’ve skipped a generation of making children come to church, what are we going to do about it? Well, we might have to do some serious work to bring them and their children back.
There is a tremendous disconnect in our church. Much of it is the egotism of the baby-boomers. Yes, egotism on the part of a generation that was given everything by the great generation. It is driving Generation-X off. We have a tremendous gap in clergy, because people of my generation weren’t encouraged to go into the priesthood, but told to go get some “life experience” by the baby boomers. The baby boomers have produced a huge number of second-career priests. It was what I was told when I was looking at the priesthood before college. I think it is fine to have more women in seminary now than ever before. But, look at the ages of your average seminarian. I realize a number of the baby boomer generation ladies weren’t allowed to go to seminary when they were younger, granted, but where are the younger folks? **********’s Diocese of ************** is apparently doing something about this. Anyone else? No one said anything about what ********* has had to say about growth. He’s right on target.

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From Today’s Daily Dig

From today’s Daily Dig, from the Bruderhouf Communities:

Wisdom of a Sadhu
Sundar Singh (1889-1929)
Both water and oil come from the earth. And though they are similar in many ways, they are opposites in their nature and their purpose. One extinguishes fire, the other gives fuel to the fire. Similarly, the world and its treasures are creations of God along with the soul and its thirst for spiritual truth. But if we try to quench the thirst of our soul with the wealth and pride and honors of this world, then it is like trying to extinguish fire with oil. The soul will only find peace and contentment in the One who created it along with its longing. When we turn to the living Master, we receive water that satisfies our soul. This water is a well of spiritual life that springs up deep within us.
Source: “Wisdom of the Sadhu: Teachings of Sundar Singh” (Plough, 2000)

New Form for Community

The more things change, the more they remain the same.
There is a group of us, former students at General Theological Seminary (GTS) that are in discussion about a new form of Christian community that allows us to work together for an authentic Christian life. Interestingly, Christian Century magazine recently published an article on “The New Monastics: Alternative Christian Communities” being expressed by many young people in the U.S. Taize may be another example of this, although the Taize Community has been around for some time, relatively speaking. We can also see similar examples in intentional Christian communities like Jesus People USA near Chicago, or the Sojourners Community near Washington D.C. Likewise, we see similar desires expressed in the Bruderhof Communities. This desire within us for intentional Christian community is nothing new, today or in centuries past.
Yet, here we are with our desire to experience more than what we have thus far. What do we do with this desire? My living situation at GTS expressed some form of this desire and its possible reality. I lived with two to three other guys in an experimental “co-op” living arrangement in a very large apartment at GTS. Basically, the administration put people together who did not know each other beforehand and who wanted to be in such a living arrangement. So, different groups of us – four at most – lived intentionally in community for three years. Three of us stayed together for two years. Two of us, Nick and I, remained in the apartment for all three years, with two new guys our last year. Honestly, we were basically roommates, but all of us were at GTS for the same purpose of being formed for the priesthood, so we shared unique things that normal roommates may not. It was good. I miss it, even though what those of us in this conversation are thinking suggests a much higher level of commitment and community.
So much of our culture is so antithetical to what I sense, as do others, to be a more highly authentic Christian life which incorporates simple living, prayer & worship, fellowship, accountability, challenge & support, ministry and service. I suspect this might at one time have been rightfully called “community.” All around us, our culture encourages crass materialism as a standard form for life, hyper-activity, hyper-individualism, gratuitous violence, inconsequential sex, uncritical trendiness & superficiality, irresponsibility, and the culture does not encourage deep and critical thinking. I’m not fearful of any of these things – there are positive aspects held within each, but our culture is taking them all to the extreme. They get in the way of a peaceable life, a life centered on the Christian disciplines surrounding the being and doing of “loving mercy, doing justly, and walking humbly with God.”
The local church, the parish, might seem to be the place where this desire can be worked out. Perhaps. Yet, as my friend John states in his rendition of these thoughts, the local parish church is where the world meets the Gospel. As such, the parish church is generally very broad as it tries to accommodate such a wide spectrum of belief, desire, and spiritual maturity. The parish church introduces people to the Gospel and starts them down the path of Christian formation. What is the next step for those wanting more – a deeper sense of community, a deeper devotion to God, and more intense and intentional experience of the authentic Christian life? Generally, this next step is very difficult to accomplish and experience in a local parish church.
Monastic communities have traditionally been where those wishing for such an intense experience have gone. What if some are not given the gift of celibacy or feel called to a solitary life? I envision a very similar kind of experience, but where there may be single people, families, men and women, young and old, people who work full-time, people with vocations of prayer like a traditional monastic, and people who may just be passing through for a time.
There are examples of such living out there, I know. I am curious what those of us in this conversation will come up with.
I have said to a few that since this particular Church does not put its money where its mouth is concerning campus ministry, that we begin a society or monastic-like community that dedicates itself to ministry to college students and the secular university. We pool our resources, we raise funds, we pioneer new works, and provide for those called to such a ministry – we live intentionally in community for the furtherance of the ministry, and to provide a place for training and discernment for those considering campus ministry as their vocation. We provide a place where those in direct ministry and those in supportive roles can be together.
I don’t know how this might work.
What I do know is that I want to live in community. I need the support, encouragement, wisdom, and challenge of other like-minded fellow sojourners as we strive to be conformed to the image of Christ and be with Him in all things.


Throughout my life, I have been accused of being woefully misguided as a so-called Christian at best or a heretic and not even a Christian at worst. I have learned to not have my faith and relationship with God determined by what others may think of me or my beliefs as a believer in Jesus Christ. I’ve developed a tough skin, which is a bit remarkable for someone who for many years experienced a whole lot of personal insecurity.
Why, a heretic?
As a youngster growing up in the Foursquare Church, and then during my campus ministry days in the Assemblies of God, I was accused of not being a Christian or a heretic because I was a Pentecostal and believed in the continuing work of the Holy Spirit through the supernatural Gifts in our day. Scripture is absolutely clear, they claimed, that the supernatural Gifts of the Holy Spirit ended with the establishment of the Canon of Scripture, or with the death of the Apostles, or sometime during the first century (whichever version the person claimed to believe). I still don’t believe that. So, perhaps I am a heretic or not even a Christian because I believe in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. I will to let God be the judge.
Generally, if one grows up within Pentecostalism, one’s heritage comprises Fr. John Wesley’s Evangelical-Arminianism, which was passed through the Holiness Movement. So, because I am an Arminian rather than a good Calvinist, that is another proof positive that I am horribly misguided at best or a heretic and not even a Christian at worst. After all, we all know that only through Calvin and Reformation Theology do we find the fullness and truth of God’s will expressed. To believe otherwise is to deny the authority of Scripture.
So now, today, because I do not believe that the traditional interpretations of Scripture applied to the homosexual condition to be correct, I am horribly misguided at best and a reprobate heretic at worst.
For me, it is not about Scriptural authority. Of course Scripture is my authority. I just think the theological, exegetical, and hermeneutical arguments against the traditional anti-homosexual interpretations are better, more thorough, and more accurate than the Prohibitionists’ views. Prohibitionists want to force the belief that if anyone disagrees with their particular interpretation of Scripture, then those people deny the authority of Scripture. This is a false premise, but if a lie is repeated often enough…
I’ve been called a heretic because I was a Pentecostal (and still am in many ways). I did not let their accusations dissuade me from my relationship with God. I’ve been called a heretic because I am an Arminian. I have not let those accusations hinder my relationship with God. I am now referred to as a heretic because I do not completely support the inappropriateness of any form of same-gender relationships.
I am not going to let this latest accusation interfere with my relationship with God, my desire for God’s will to be done in my life, and my honest desire that all people be reconciled to God.